- Katy’s family and friends give her and Shaun a hard time about their choice of job and imply that they should be doing something else with their lives. How do you think this makes her feel? Do you think her family and friends were right? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: Katy and Shaun are valets and others feel like they could ‘do more’ but they are happy and enjoy their jobs. This can be a great time to open up a conversation with kiddos about their own interests and goals and how you can be a good cheerleader and supporter of what they want, rather than what you want them to do.
- How do you think Katy feels when she finds out about Shaun’s family and past? Do you think Shaun was right to keep the truth from her?
Caregiver Note: Shaun had good reasons for keeping his past from Katy as he was running away from an abusive family member. This is a great opportunity to remind youth that their stories are their own and they should never feel like they are obligated to share them with the world if they aren’t comfortable. However, Katy’s feelings of hurt are absolutely valid as well. Katy is able to share her feelings with Shaun and explain that she feels hurt and confused and Shaun is able to disclose his story to her in a way that feels safe for him. Katy’s support of Shaun doesn’t waver, even when she is upset with him, and she even goes with him when he has to go home and deal with a difficult situation with his birth family. This is a great example of how to deal with conflict and support one another in a healthy relationship.
- Why did Shaun decide to run away, even knowing his sister was counting on him to come home? Do you think he did the right thing? Do you think his running away means he didn’t care about his sister?
Caregiver Note: This is definitely a difficult situation and hard conversation topic to navigate and may bring up upsetting memories and big feelings for children who have dealt with sibling separation. Shang-Chi ran away because he had an opportunity to get out of an abusive situation and not continue in the life his father was forcing him into. He also felt ashamed of what he had done by killing the men on his mission and he wanted to run away from those feelings. It wasn’t his responsibility to take care of his sister as they were both children. However it was likely still an incredibly hard thing for him to do and he seems to feel some guilt over it. His desire to get himself out of a bad situation was valid and did not mean that he didn’t love his sister. Children may have been separated from siblings when entering foster care, or feel guilt about being adopted when siblings were left in care or in an abusive bio home. This may open up a conversation about their own experiences, if they’re ready to talk about it. But if it’s too much they may need to keep the conversation focused on the characters for now and that’s okay!
- When Shang-Chi first reunites with his sister, she reacts with anger and even leaves him behind to possibly be killed when the assassins attack. Do you think she was justified in her feelings?
Caregiver Note: This question goes along with the previous one. While Shang-Chi wasn’t responsible for taking care of his sister, as he was also a child at the time, Xialing’s feelings of abandonment are also valid. She talks about how she waited for six years, hoping he would come back for her and finally having to realize that he wasn’t coming back and she was on her own. Her anger is somewhat displaced as the real person she is angry at is her abusive father. Again, children may need to keep the conversation focused on the characters if they are not ready to talk about this part of their own trauma.
- How do you think Shang-chi and Xialing feel when they finally see Ta Lo, their mother’s homeland, for the first time?
Caregiver Note: Shang-Chi and Xialing lost their mother when they were very young, but grew up on stories about her magical homeland, Ta Lo. They finally are able to travel there and see her home and meet their aunt and others who knew their mother. Their aunt even has gifts for them that their mother left. Most children who have experienced family separation long for any connection to their birth family. Talking about Shang-Chi and Xialing’s experience in Ta Lo might be a great way to start a discussion about ways they can keep the memories of their birth family and culture alive; whether that’s through visiting special places, special items, or relationships with extended bio family members (if it’s safe of course).
- Activity: Create a Magical Creature
Caregiver Note: There are a lot of heavy themes and topics in the movie (and this discussion guide) so this can be a great way to take a break and talk about something fun. Halfway through the movie the heroes enter Ta Lo, the mystical homeland of their mother. Here there are many different mythical creatures such as dragons and Morris (whatever he is). Have children imagine their own mythical creature and draw a picture of it. What does it look like? Does it have any magical powers? How might it help people?
- Aunt Nan tells Katy “If you aim at nothing, you hit nothing”. What do you think this means?
Caregiver Note: When the people of Ta Lo are preparing for battle Nan encourages Katy to learn archery. Katy initially declines saying that she wouldn’t be any good at it. Nan gives her this advice, stating the cliché that ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’. Once Katy puts her mind to it and tries, she ends up being very good at archery and even shoots the Creature of Darkness and helps save Shang-Chi. Children who have experienced trauma often have difficulty imaging in the future. Since they’ve been in survival mode for so long, living in the moment and always reacting to the next fight-or-flight moment, they don’t have time to plan for the future. Children who have been abused or neglected also have very poor self esteem and often believe they are worthless. Between these two factors they may be reluctant to set goals for fear that they won’t be able to achieve them. This scene is a great example of how sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and try something new and we might be better at it than we expect.
- Activity: Tai Chi
Caregiver Note: Several different martial arts techniques are used by different characters in the movie, but the one Shang-Chi’s mother Li uses is Tai Chi. We see a flashback of her teaching these techniques to a young Shang-Chi. There is also a lot of research that supports using Tai Chi as a way of coping with trauma as it focuses on combining mindfulness and breathing exercises with gentle body movements. Look up some beginner videos and practice doing them together! Exercising as a family is a great bonding activity and kids might be more likely to buy-in to this type of activity if they feel like they are emulating a superhero by doing so!
- Shang-chi’s mom’s final advice to him before her death was “Take everything we’ve given you and make it your own”. How does Shang-Chi do this? How can you apply this to your life?
Caregiver Note: In a literal sense, Shang-Chi takes this advice and utilizes a fighting style that blends both his mother and father’s different techniques together and this is what allows him to defeat both Wenwu and the Creature of Darkness. But it also works on a deeper level – that Shang-Chi has to learn how to blend his current life and his past life, and figuring out how to connect all the pieces of what he comes from in order to figure out who he is. Shang-Chi worries that he will become like his father and works to try to avoid that. But this reminder from his mother tells him that he has pieces of both of his parents inside him but he gets to choose how to use those pieces to be the person he wants to be. This can be a great way to talk to kiddos about how they can blend together the things they’ve gotten from their different caregivers. Whether that’s birth, foster, or adoptive family members and how they get to choose how the pieces of their story fit together and make it their own.
- What are the different ways the characters honor their lost loved ones during the movie? How can I help you honor those you’ve lost?
Caregiver Note: After the final battle, the people of Ta Lo held a ceremony where they lit paper lanterns and sent them down the river as a way of honoring those they lost in the battle. Earlier in the movie we also see a few examples of shrines set up for Li both in Ta Lo and Shang-Chi’s family home. Early on in the movie Katy’s grandmother also talks about Day of the Dead and buying her husband’s favorite things to give him to take back to the afterlife with him. All of these traditions are ways of remembering lost loved ones and celebrating their lives. This can be a great way to talk about ways that you can help your kiddo(s) remember and honor those they have lost, whether that’s in a memory book, or maybe making a favorite meal of theirs. Remember that loss doesn’t necessarily always mean death, children may grieve the loss of biological parents or siblings they are separated from as well.
About the Author: Jenn Ehlers
Jenn is a central Virginia native who received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012. Since then she has worked for a local mental health agency and the Department of Social Services in various capacities and has been involved in her community’s efforts to create a Trauma Informed Network. Currently Jenn works in vocational rehab and mentors youth in foster care. When she isn’t working, Jenn enjoys writing stories, anything and everything Harry Potter, and spending time with her niece and nephew.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.